Game Development Reference
Free testing should have clear goals. The work done should be documented (via video-
tape) and documentable (through clear, concise, reproducible bug reports). It should
also be worthwhile. The following are but a few of the common pitfalls you should
avoid when free testing:
Competing with other testers in multiplayer games. It's not about your individ-
ual score or win/loss record, it's about delivering a good product.
Competing against the AI (or yourself) in single-player games.
Spending a lot of time testing features that may be cut. You may be made aware
that a certain mode or feature is “on the bubble,�? that is, in danger of being
eliminated from the game. Adjust your focus accordingly.
Testing the most popular features of the game. Communicate frequently with
your test lead and colleagues so you can stay current with what areas, features,
and modes have been covered (and re-covered) already. Focus on the “unexplored
Spending a disproportionate amount of time testing features that are infre-
quently used. You're wasting your (and the project's) time spending day after
day exploring every nook and cranny of the map editor in your RTS, for exam-
ple. Only about 15% of all users typically ever enter a map editor, and fewer
than 5% actually use it to create maps. You want those folks to have a good
experience, but not if it places the other 85% of your players at risk.
Because ad hoc testing depends on the instincts, tastes, and prejudices of the individ-
ual tester, it's important as a test manager to create an environment where testers think
differently from one another. Gamers are not a uniform, homogenous group; your test
lab shouldn't be, either. If you've staffed your lab with nothing but hardcore gamers,
you won't find all the bugs, nor will you ship the best product.
Groupthink is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis to describe a situation
in which flawed decisions or actions are taken because a group under pressure often
sees a decay in its “mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment.�? One com-
mon aspect of groupthink is a tendency toward self-censorship—where individuals
within a group fail to voice doubts or dissent out of a fear of being criticized, ostra-
cized, or worse. This is a danger in game testing because the majority of people who
aggressively seek game tester jobs are men in their early 20s—young enough that pres-
sure to conform to the peer group is still very strong.
For more information on groupthink, see Janis, Victims of Groupthink(Houghton Mifflin, 1972).